|Well, where the hell have I been?
||[Nov. 7th, 2011|11:06 am]
Okay, so I’m beginning to recover from Scary NameRedacted (screw you, search engines) Avenue. I can walk down a short flight of stairs like a normal person, not sideways like a crab, clutching the banister and sliding my butt down the opposite wall. (Oh, it SOUNDS funny, but the waves of pathetic emanating from my self-esteem, plus my medusa-like glare that I’m OBSERVED being pathetic…well, it would kill you dead, to see it.)|
I’ve got three splinters in my fingers that are being assimilated by my Borgskin, the requisite hot-glue divot-scar, two bashed knuckles and various smaller injuries. About par for Halloween.
Oddly enough, almost everything is put away already. I’m finally getting it all organized. Although what does it say about you when you have a bedroom sized room in your basement, full of shelving units, loaded with boxes labeled “Heads”, “Teeth & Eyes”, “Rats”, “Crows”, “Assorted Glues”, “Assorted Glow” and are proud of how your giant mushroom stems fit so neatly inside the dragon’s gullet?
Of course, we also have a sturdy band of volunteers who’ve now been doing this for a couple of years and I’m definitely indebted to them. Especially now that, with experience, they can just be pointed at tasks and they know what to do, where to put it. It’s a huge help. Plus, after losing several neighborhood stalwarts, and having to endure a couple of particularly needy years, several of the newer neighbors have really stepped up and are beginning to help each other again, or just handle everything themselves, so it’s much less of a burden on me.
There’s still a little clean-up to do this weekend, as neighbors bring back things that they borrowed – already there are a couple of coffins in the yard, a bag of owls on my front stoop. But it’s mostly done.
Everything went well – about 2000 pieces of candy per house, we estimate. Add parents and the people who come just to look, and we figure about 3-4,000 attendees. Not a single problem, which is pretty amazing – crowds of people, all coming through in the space of 4 hours or less, in the dark. We keep a lot of the rowdy teens away through a combination of ending early enough, and by keeping the whole gestalt of the event very tame – the gore is mild, the scares are gentle.
It’s a boatload of work. Not as much as it used to be – it took several years to build up enough of a propstock so that anyone who needed a few ghosts, a bunch of tombstones, random supplies. I still organize a kick off picnic, a planning meeting or two, a closing evening pot-luck, distribute newsletters/notices, take care of permits, organize work parties…but not as many meetings/newsletters, not all the meetings/events happen at MY house, and I may set dates, times and team leaders, but other people have taken up some of the heavy lifting on making specific projects happen.
But still – if you apply all of that work to what amounts to essentially a four hour party, the PSI is immense. Admittedly, if you apply it per guest, it thins out a bit. Until you think to yourself, I don’t even KNOW most of these people. That’s why I shy away from wearing a mask, or too obscuring of a costume. Damn it, if I’m laying injured in a ditch somewhere, I’d like to think they might recognize me – Hey, it’s the Scary NameRedacted Lady, we should pull her out of there, she throws a good party! But I’m not going to hold my breath.
And I’ll kid you not, every year, about halfway through set-up, usually at some uncomfortable juncture where I momentarily have more volunteers than projects to point them at and a neighbor, despite having been warned to ask in advance, wants some kind of crazy special help/supply, or has some need that I would have been happy to handle a day or two before, but NOW, now, my friend, it’s too late, I am busy with my own expletive. And my feet hurt, my knees and back ache, my head is pounding, and I think good heavens, I’ll never get this all done. And WHY AM I EVEN DOING THIS? THIS IS NOT FUN. WHYAM I WORKING SO EXPLETIVE HARD TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE HAPPY?
But once you’ve pushed things forward to a certain point, you’re on the roller coaster, and you just have to gut it out, and swear to re-think roller coasters when you’re back on solid ground.
Don’t get me wrong, I love making the stuff…which I never set aside enough time for. But I’m no artist – there’s a Grand Canyon between how I see a prop in my head and what the end result is. My motto is “Hey, don’t worry, it’ll be dark out.” Almost more, I love Macgyver’ing a prop or scene from whatever’s available. Hmmm, I have glass eyeball ornaments…..okay....I haven’t put away my potted plants yet and that one looks appropriately scabrous, let’s wire those puppies on there. And, I need a victim for the spider web…...oh, look a rubber chicken. Cheesecloth…let’s shred it, done. A mask, a stake, old clothes, newspaper, plastic bags, staple gun, straight pins, branches to camouflage the lack of feet, ooh, a grave-digger, someone get me a shovel. In minutes. It’s the dumbest, most useless skill ever and I’d trade it in a heartbeat for being able to sculpt, mold and paint well. But it’s what I’ve got. And it feels really, really good to exercise what you’re good at.
But it’s also the kids. Not just the kids, the adults too. Anyone with a sense of wonder. The whole street is basically a bitchfest of “do we have to do it” for weeks leading up to it. As we all buy $200 of candy, lay in supplies, give up at least a day to set up…but then we get 4 hours of wide-eyed, deliriously excited kids. Adults who are amazed or grateful. Every year we get kids who live in neighborhoods where trick or treating is out of the question, because it’s too damn dangerous to be on the street after dark. Or kids who think that trick or treating is what you do at the MALL. Kids and adults who are new to this country, new to this holiday, and are struggling to wrap their heads around the concept of a holiday where you dress up and get free candy. And other people put a lot of effort into making something special and then GIVE you that candy. And don’t expect anything in return. Dear Fundamentalists, THAT’S the point of Halloween, not devil worship, or glorification of evil. Morons. And hey, Tea Partiers, WE’RE the patriots, we’re giving back to our community, building happier childhoods – what have you done lately? Put a flag sticker on your car? Oooh, how patriotic.
Ahem. Time for me to lay off the Laffy Taffy. That’s some sugar rush.
Anyway. Making people happy. Being part of something larger. Helping to build community. Because of this thing we do on our street, we have a much stronger sense of community than does the next street over. We get to know each other – by meeting at the picnic, chatting and relaxing together at planning meetings, by bonding during bamboo cutting, or luminary filling, or borrowing owls or aliens. Somewhere there’s a theory of how many points of connection you need in order to feel like you belong to a group. Living in close proximity is one. Participating Halloween night, even if you don’t attend the other events, there’s another. I don’t know if three is the tipping point…I suspect so. So, attending one of the other events, is that the tipping point? Having kids in common, there’s one. Or dogs. Or, learning that you went to the same school, or shop at the same store or find the same things funny…every point binds you closer, as a group, as a community. And the big night, and the events leading up to it, these are ways to feel connected and also to learn more about each other, leading to further points. And that’s how it happens.
A lot of people say to me “oh, I wish our street had that sense of community, I wish I lived in a neighborhood that got along so well.” Yeah, well, it doesn’t just happen, not in this modern age. Used to be, in a small quiet town, you just ran into each other all of the time. Wound up at the same places, knew each other’s business. The points of connection were obvious, or easy. Where we live, in the age we live in? There has to be some facilitation. You hold a kick-off picnic and you invite everyone, even though most people won’t come. And you hold it the next year. And then the next year. And you have your meetings, even if it’s the same people over and over again. And you send out your newsletters, even though it seems as if no one’s reading them. And it can take years. I didn’t start this. I only picked up the baton. And some years it feels like the baton weighs a ton. And other years it’s light as a feather. But it takes a while to get momentum, critical mass.
It doesn’t have to be as complicated and faceted as the thing we’ve got – although even we’ve toned down, passing up on doing the labor day parade we used to do – but it does have to be something. And you have to be willing to work at it, even if it seems at times that it’s just you and a couple of other die-hards. As long as you’re having some fun doing it, carry on.
So, you want a community? Build it yourself – light your own damn candle.